AgustaWestland: CBI Questions SP Tyagi; Broader Concerns Emerge
The agency has already questioned ex-IAF chief SP Tyagi, but this is the first session after the Italian court order.
On Monday, ex-IAF chief SP Tyagi was questioned for nearly 10 hours at the CBI Headquarters in New Delhi. According to CBI sources, the questioning focussed on the bribe money allegedly transferred to Tyagi’s brother’s bank account. He was also questioned on how he procured funding for his post-retirement trip to Italy. Interestingly, till now the CBI has failed to gather evidence to prove that the bribe money eventually reached Tyagi.
All that the CBI sources confirmed is that the agency is aware of a trip on which Tyagi went to Florence, Venice and Milan in Italy after he retired in 2007-08. The investigation is underway and the CBi is trying to determine who accompanied him on the trips, and who funded his travel and stay. The sources claimed that Tyagi was presented with Italy’s response to judicial requests of the CBI during interrogation.
Tyagi was also questioned about statements made by middlemen Carlos Gerosa and Guido Haschke, to Italian authorities. They purportedly claimed to have met Tyagi on several occasions between 2004-07.
Tyagi has denied all allegations levelled against him, claiming innocence and maintaining that the change of specifications, which brought AgustaWestland into contention, was a collective decision involving senior officers from the Indian Air Force, SPG, NSA and other departments.
The Milan Court of Appeals (the Italian counterpart of an Indian high court) has provided details of how alleged bribes were paid to Indian officials through middlemen to clinch deals. The bribes were paid by helicopter-maker Finmeccanica, based in Rome, and AgustaWestland, based in UK.
The order mentions Tyagi at several points. The former Air Chief has been alleged of reducing the flying ceiling of helicopters from 6,000m to 4,500m (15,000ft), which made AgustaWestland helicopters be part of the race to bagging deals. Otherwise, its helicopters were not even qualified to be submitted for bidding.
The agency has already questioned Tyagi, but this is the first session after the Italian court order arrived.
CBI sources said the agency called Gautam Khaitan – former board member of Aeromatrix, one of the suspects in the case – for questioning on Wednesday. The bribe money was allegedly transferred from Finmeccanica to Aeromatrix. Tyagi’s cousins –Sanjeev, Rajeev and Sandeep – have been called in for questioning, later this week.
It is alleged by Italian prosecutors that bribes to clinch the deal were paid through middlemen and routed through a consultancy contract between AgustaWestland and companies owned by the involved middlemen.
It has indeed taken some time for the agency to have finally made progress in the investigation. But is this just another procedural delay?
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